While Rapala minnows own a healthy share of the real estate in freshwater fishermen’s tackle boxes, in the plug bags of Northeast surfcasters, it’s relatively rare to find one. You do see plenty of Lauri Rapala’s influence, however.
In 1936, Lauri Rapala, working with cork, foil from a chocolate bar, and melted photographic negatives, created the minnow plug. That Original Floating Rapala spawned countless variations from dozens of lure manufacturers, who took Rapala’s design and tweaked it for different fish and fisheries. Surfcasters have used minnow plugs to catch stripers in both quantity and quality for generations. In fact, the largest-ever surf-caught bass fell to a Rebel Windcheater minnow plug cast seaward into a fall storm by an Atlantic City lifeguard, Al McReynolds.
The minnow plug saw a renaissance in the early 2010s, when Daiwa introduced the Salt Pro Minnow. This design took the classic minnow plug and added a sliding internal weight that shot to the back of the lure on the cast, helping it fly straight and far. As plug bags again filled with minnow plugs, the lure style’s progenitor remained absent.
Rapala has an effective, and growing, saltwater side. There’s the X-Rap Magnum line of deep-divers with trolling baits for bonito, stripers, and bigeye tuna, the Skitter Walk V, a topwater that out-dog-walks the Jumpin’ Minnow, the Magnum Xplode tuna popper and, for surfcasters, the X-Rap Long Cast.
This is the lure ticked into all of the Striper Cup Sign Up boxes this year, in mackerel or bone patterns. Compared to the original Rapala, the Long Cast has a compact, deeper-bodied profile that’s a closer match to peanut bunker and mullet than silversides and sand eels. It comes in two sizes (4¾ and 5½ inches) and nearly two dozen colors that range from the realistic Anchovy to the outrageous Hot Olive. The translucent body gives each color an extra level of realism. It comes fitted with 4X VMC inline single hooks, which aid in safe catch and release for both angler and fish.
Unlike most minnows, the X-Rap Long Cast sinks. Without the resistance of the plug’s buoyancy to provide swimming action, it requires a faster retrieve to get it wiggling. For striper anglers accustomed to slower retrieves, the lure is most effective when fishing across and against current. The benefit of the sinking design is its fluttering fall, so incorporate frequent pauses during the retrieve to exploit this feature. Twitch the rod tip, causing the small plastic lip to dig in and create an erratic slashing action. While the most effective retrieve with traditional minnows is a slow and steady reel, the X-Rap Long Cast fishes best with twitches, pauses, and speed changes.